Rapid Response: What’s the story with the AFG turndown letters?

2017 AFG applicants get an unwelcome surprise from FEMA

A number of 2017 AFG applicants got an unexpected surprise in their email yesterday. No, it wasn’t an award notice, it was a turndown letter from FEMA for the 2017 application.

What happened: Unfortunately, even though the letters were dated incorrectly, the letter is legitimate. FEMA uses a contractor to generate and disseminate these notices, and they released them without letting FEMA know that they were doing so.

Why it’s significant: A number of people wondered if this was a computer error or some type of mistake, because the letter was dated for this coming Friday. Never in the past has FEMA issued a turndown notice before awards had been announced.

Some 2017 AFG applicants got an unexpected surprise in their email.
Some 2017 AFG applicants got an unexpected surprise in their email. (Photo/courtesy DigitalGov)

Top takeaways on the AFG turndown letters

Here’s what we know and can tell you about the AFG turndown letters.

1. The AFG turndown letters were generated by activity

Each letter should have a heading that notes a specific activity (e.g., Equipment). This means that the item or items you applied for under this specific activity did not make it to peer review. If you applied for several categories of Equipment (e.g., TIC, hose and radios), then all those items were turned down.

2. One turndown letter does not mean all your activities were rejected

If you applied for more than one activity, receiving a rejection notice does not mean that all of your activities were turned down. If you applied for another activity and you did not get another turndown letter, than you can reasonably believe that the other activity made it to peer review. So, if you applied for SCBA and Equipment: radios, and you received a turndown for Equipment only, the radios were turned down at this point and the SCBA application went to peer review.

What’s next: FEMA will be following up the notices with a letter of explanation detailing what happened and why it occurred. These explanations should be out in the next 24 hours.

The explanation will also inform departments that this year, FEMA will offer a new program of debriefings to those applicants that did not make it to peer review. The debriefing will be a more in-depth explanation of why your application didn’t make it to peer review. As part of this process, you will login to the debriefing with your application number. FEMA hopes that this process will allow departments to have a better understanding of the program and to develop more competitive applications in the future.

FEMA anticipates that 2017 AFG awards should start being awarded by the last week in April or the first week of May. Awards will continue on a rolling basis until they are completed, which should be before mid September.

Learn more about AFG grants

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